By Jon Weisman
Even amid the struggles of the bullpen over the past two months, Tuesday’s loss to Oakland after leading 4-1 in the eighth hit the Dodgers (like their fans) particularly hard.
As I write this, members of the bullpen are having an unusual on-field meeting out in right field of Oakland’s O.co Coliseum. Bullpen coach Chuck Crim is leading the meeting, according to KLAC’s David Vassegh, Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles added that “Kenley Jansen is doing a lot of talking.”
Don Mattingly summed up the dilemma this morning in his chat with reporters. The following is a paraphrase of Mattingly’s remarks:
“I think it’s pretty simple, you need to execute. If you get the ball where you want it, you tend to get outs. You just try to match guys up the best you can, that’s all you can do. You want to support your guys and show confidence in them. We haven’t been as consistent out of the pen as we’ve liked.”
The problem with the Dodger bullpen hasn’t been a lack of effort or options. Short of trading players the caliber of Corey Seager and Julio Urias caliber to Cincinnati for Aroldis Chapman, which wouldn’t and shouldn’t happen, the Dodgers have pursued numerous available avenues to shore up the relief staff — pitchers young and old, pitchers with different mixes and strengths and skill sets. We understandably look longingly back at the high-priced options from last offseason, but we’ve seen those blow up more often than they’ve succeeded. Twenty men have pitched in relief for the Dodgers this year — 13 of them new to the organization in 2015. That’s basically two bullpens full of attempted solutions.
Nor is the problem a lack of ability. Not one of the Dodgers’ seven current full-time relievers hasn’t gotten on a roll sometime this year. These are only some of the examples:
- Luis Avilan (May 1-June 3): 11 1/3 innings, one run, 12 of 13 inherited runners stranded
- Pedro Baez (July 18-August 17): 13 1/3 innings, one run, six of 10 inherited runners stranded
- Yimi Garcia (June 7-27): 11 1/3 innings, one earned run, five of five inherited runners stranded
- Chris Hatcher (April 27-May 22): 8 innings, one earned run, five of eight inherited runners stranded
- J.P. Howell (April 14-July 26): 28 1/3 innings, no earned runs, 17 of 21 inherited runners stranded
- Kenley Jansen (May 15-June 28): 15 2/3 innings, one run, three of five inherited runners stranded
- Jim Johnson (June 9-July 17): 17 2/3 innings, no runs, one inherited runner stranded
A ton has gone wrong with the Dodger bullpen this summer. The relievers haven’t been consistently good enough, and too often if one guy’s on, another guy’s off. No one on the team is an automatic gas can — which is the main point I try to emphasize — but collectively, there’s very little authority emanating from that crew.
Amid the carnage, there are ball-in-play factors (noted by Eric Stephen at True Blue L.A.) that in some respects resemble what Clayton Kershaw went through in April and May. Dodger relievers have pitched better than the results show.
Admittedly, that’s not an easy case to make a day after Baez and Garcia were being blasted by four doubles while retiring four batters, and the bullpen gives up four runs while getting six outs. But today’s another day.